‘Bailey Bridge’ in Downtown Vancouver, 1944

Updated (First Published August 2015)

CVA 586-3200 - Hotel Vancouver 1944 Don Coltman photo.

CVA 586-3200 – Hotel Vancouver 1944 Don Coltman photo.

This photograph shows a 240-foot Bailey Bridge (1 of 2 by Don Coltman; the other image appears below) spanning Georgia Street at Howe Street in 1944.

Zooming on the image reveals a sign on the structure identifying it as “Bailey Bridge Class #2(? or 7?) Dual Carriageway”. Initially, I assumed that “Bailey” was after a local British Columbian (e.g., Vancouver professional photography pioneer, Charles Bailey). But I later learned that while Bailey is indeed a surname, it wasn’t for a B.C. resident, but for British engineer, Sir Donald Bailey; furthermore, the name of the bridge isn’t a unique identifier, but instead is a type of bridge (created by Bailey) which was commonly used during and after WWII in Europe and elsewhere. The Bailey was developed in 1940 and was adopted by the Allies in 1941. It was a modular means of spanning a water or land gap with a structure that could carry vehicles as large and heavy as tanks. The bridge was carried by engineers in 10-foot panels and was constructed where needed.

The structure shown in these photos was erected within a 10-hour period by Royal Canadian army engineers in 1944 as part of ‘Army Week’ for the 7th Victory Loan campaign. It was able to carry a load of up to 50 tons. Construction began at midnight on November 1. The bridge0 was in service for pedestrians and vehicles, reportedly, by 10 a.m. Apparently, the Bailey Bridge had only just been released from the ‘secret list‘. (Vancouver Sun, 1 November 1944)  The Bridge’s opening ribbon was cut by Hollywood luminary, Gail Patrick.

The bridge proved so popular with Vancouverites, who flocked to walk across it or drive beneath it (on Georgia) or across it (on Howe), that engineers decided to leave the bridge up for about 24 hours longer than had originally been planned. It was dismantled on the evening of November 3rd.

CVA 586-3202 - [Walkway over Georgia Street] 1944 Don Coltman

CVA 586-3202 – [Walkway over Georgia Street] 1944 Don Coltman.

The pictured Bailey Bridge was not the only one to be constructed in Greater Vancouver. One other Bailey Bridge (of a different sort) was erected over Georgia Street in May 1945, just a few months before the War’s end. This one was an 80-foot spanner that was able to bear 70 tons. This bridge, evidently had a similar PR function – serving to boost Victory Loan contributions. This bridge was opened by Edgar Bergen, of Charlie McCarthy fame. This bridge was dismantled later on the same day of its erection (Vancouver Sun, 3 May 1945).

Bailey Bridges have been utilized in the Vancouver area for non-PR purposes since the War. An example was in the aftermath of the 1949 flood of the Capilano River in West Vancouver (Vancouver Sun 28 November 1949).

For additional info on Bailey Bridges, consult this page. A fascinating article of the contribution of a Canadian to Bailey Bridge variants may be found here: “Kingsmill Bridge in Italy”, by Ken MacLeod.

This entry was posted in architects, bridges/viaducts, Don Coltman, street scenes and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to ‘Bailey Bridge’ in Downtown Vancouver, 1944

  1. Wiebe de Haas says:

    Every Place Has A Story, FB March 13, 2015.

  2. That’s pretty interesting! Always fascinating to see what you dig up!

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